Saturday, October 27, 2012

Inner Fife: The Epic

It's been a while since I last went out looking for trails in N.E. Fife, the maps are currently broken and I haven't bothered to sort out my openspace key which si where the problem is (apparently it doesn't work too well with blogger), so I reckoned it was about time I tried to stick a route together from the lot for the blog.

I've done a few "Epics" in the Highlands, in the Ochils and also this one I'm about to present, each time I've done it I have done something slightly different, there are many options available, sections can be cut, modified, doubled, tripled, daft detours can be put in, what ever you wish.  My aim here is simply to show you a possibility.

As I am based in Wormit I will start the route at Wormit bay, although as will be identified there are many possible start points.

Section 1. Wormit Bay to Balmerino
From the Wormit Bay car park follow the path along the retaining wall westward upstream to the seal at the foot of the hedge lined path, climb up through the hedges before a brief descent in an opening before another short sharp climb to a wicket gate, lift the bike through the gate and follow the path through the fields, down water channel hollows and back up again, eventually a young (in 2012) woodland will appear on your left and the going will get slightly softer, this eventually leads to a path division.

Historically the path clung to the side of a steep drop, however the path has been brought in land recently as part of the coastal path works.  Although the historical path was passable in 2012 I do not expect this to last long as some sections are little more than a couple of tyre widths wide, where the path is not in danger of washing away it is a challenging wee ride.

Following the new top path eventually takes you to a flight of steps back down to rejoin the older path, you could cut out Balmerino by climbing from here to Kirkton and picking up the route eastward.

The path drops you out at a small habitation, keep to the water side of these houses, picking up the cobbled path and then stones to the private road along the foreshore before a short climb to Balmerino Abbey.

Section 2. Balmerino to Birkhill via the Low Woods
Optional Section! Pick up description at Section 8 to skip.
Across from the Abbey there is a large barn and a gate, the gate can be walked/ridden round and cycle to the end of the concrete block, turn round the rear of the barn and then a path apparently into the field will be seen.  Take this path which will lead you to a sharp turning into the foliage, this path drops down to the shore line in the woods, keep following the path, sometimes waymarked with White paint on sticks, sometimes with Red arrows, however I would not trust these too much.

The trick in here is not only to follow the most obvious paths but also to have a GPS device on with mapping that shows where Birkhill House is.
A general description of key points would be:
The closest you will get to the foreshore is in a small clearing where the path cuts down right to the edge of the wood before crossing a small culvert on a makeshift bridge with a steep climb up the side of the hill, this keeps climbing to the House's walled garden.
If you have picked this route up right you should find the climb easing within a few hundred meters and start to cut along the hill, it cuts in to the hill a few times for crossing water courses both with and without bridges, before a rather surprising wide avenue appears in the middle of the woods which then cuts sharply up hill again nearer the house.

This drops you off at the gardens, you follow the path along the side of the garden wall and houses until you hit the road. At the road turn Left.

3. Birkhill to Balinbreich
Another Optional section, Pick up description at Section 7 to skip, by climbing Greenhill Drive and forking left to Thornton and Byres.

This section is all road, from the walled garden turn down towards the house and then take the drive to the left, back up the hill this takes you to a T junction with a quiet road, turn right and savour the view as you descend rapidly to Balhelvie before undulating along towards Newburgh.

To your right you will eventually see Balinbreich castle, and on your left watch out for a left hand hairpin onto private road that climbs steeply.

4. Balinbreich to Glenduckie

Climb this hill and follow the right of way arrows past the houses, it gets a bit soft in sections but will eventually take you to a cross roads with the Fife Coastal Path near Old Higham.

You have 2 route options here, either turn left and follow the coastal path down to Glenduckie, or just plummet down the farm track.

Where you meet the public road turn left, and left again alongside the farm.

5. Glenduckie to Normans Law
Follow the track alongside the farm, it will curve to the left with a gate on the right.
To the left is where you would emerge if you took the left turn at the top of the hill, in both cases the Fife coastal path arrows will point you through the gate as the route to Aytoun Hill, this path runs along the side of a field and like all field edging routes requires care of both ground conditions and not straying into the crops.  At the end of the field edging section it cuts into woods on a small path that appears to cut across from the other road (never investigated if this is a possible short cut for those coming down from the cross roads), and passes some houses on your right, at the end of the short road you want to turn left up hill.

This road takes you up though the Aytoun Hill woodland, it curves as it climbs onto the North face of the hill before depositing you out the woods at a junction where the main track leads back down hill, go through the gate on the right and follow the track uphill, you will eventually find a gate marked as a right of way to Luthrie, but first the summit of the hill. Either dump the bike at the gate or carry the bike up to the summit of Norman's law, some sections of trail may even be rideable.  The summit is the site of an old fort and trig point, with cracking views over Fife and the Tay valley.

6. Norman's Law to Luthrie
This section is a grass based right of way through fields with livestock, it leads down to a track into the village of Luthrie, follow the path with your nose and you can't really go wrong, although there is a mildly confusing section at Carphin.

7. Luthrie back to Balmerino
This section is all on road, climb the east most road out of Luthrie up to Hazelton Walls (you can also go through Brunton and Creich if you want)
Eventually you will see on the left the Birkhill gatehouse at the top of Greenhill drive, descend the drive to the fork right, take this along through thornton, at byres instead of going onto the road you can take the new path roudn the back of the houses to get to Balmerino Abbey

8. Balmerino to Naughton
This section can be bypassed by hitting the road to Section 9

Descend into Balmerino but instead of dropping to the foreshor follow the road in the village over the bridge and take the path signed for Gauldry - Monks Road into the field.
Follow this path through the field, into the woods where a wee bit of singletrack leads you to a road crossing, cross over the road, throguh the field again and into another bit of woods, follow the main track through here to the private road at the houses in Bottom Craig, at the right hand corner there is a path straight on, follow this behind some more houses and this will lead you through to Naughton farm, turn right here out to the road.

 At this point you can return to Wormit by turning Left in Naughton and following the track to Peacehill before taking either the road or the right of way through the fields,  the right of way is only passable if the ground is well drained and the farm have left a good road way through the crops (this is clear as you get close to it) as the path in the field edge is hardly walkable due to lack of use.

9. Naughton to Gauldry

Turn left onto the road and then just past the house there is a big muddy field opening, ignore this but take the next big muddy field opening, a right of way leads directly up hill from here to the Gauldry church hall. There is also a shop in the village, turn right along the main road and it's on the left, retrace steps to repick the route.

10. Gauldry to Kilmany
The aim here is to get through Gauldry onto the Shambleton woods track, this is done by turning down Quality Street, turning left on Balgove Avenue and then looking out for a path to the right, take this past the houses to a junction with the path into the fields, follow this path uphill, eventually an obvious path turns to the left into the woods, take this throguh the woods until it looks like you are at a dead end, a road is just over an old earth dyke, find the route through the dyke onto the road and then descend, rapidly.
This track bottoms out before Kilmany and you have a short climb before another descent to the A92.
Cross the A92 onto the village road (marked as unsuitable for through traffic).

11. Kilmany to Forret and Logie
Climb out of the village by crossing over the bridge and through the old railway bridge gap, climb the road up to the switchback and then start looking for a track on the left, take this track toward EAster Forret and just keep following it, it will deteriorate in quality until it is little more than a mucky footpath up hill, at this point it drops you into the back of Logie.

12. Logie to Craigsanquhar
Turn Right onto the road at Logie and you will come to a sharp left hand bend, on the outside of this bend there is a gate, go through this on the path and turn sharp left, follow this path until a wide farm track intersects, turn up the wide farm track back to the road.

13. Craigsanquhar to Dairsie
Left of where you have rejoined the road there are cottages, between these cottages there is a road, descend this down to Dairsie, at the bottom you can either go up into Dairsie to use the shop or turn left along to Pitormie.

14. Dairsie to Cuplas Hill.
This is a rather flat wide road, it drops you off on the main road just short of Pitormie, if you aren't comfortable with the traffic flow the far side has a narrow excuse of a path.

Turn left onto the main road/path to the junction at Thai Teak where you can partake in some cakes and coffee.

At Thai Teak there turn up the hill and take a right onto a path, this starts as a decent field access before turning into a challenging climb on usually soggy single track, I've gone up here in the past wondering what it's like to descend, the answer is of course Fun!
Keep following this and it will eventually drop you onto an estate road at Airdit House, turn Right on this and look for the next right hand junction, you have a decision to make

15. Cuplas hill Decisions, decisions, decisions or how to get to Leuchars.

Option 1: Follow the track out to the junction on the road at the top of the hill, and pick up the track throguhh the fields to the top of Lucklaw hill, from the top of Lucklaw hill pick up the various tracks that drop you to the Lucklaw hill settlement, from here you can drop down to either the main road or Balmullo.
If you go for the main road you want to find the road over St Michaels golf course and then turn down the road into Leuchars.

Option 2. Descend into Balmullo on the farm road, and cut throguh the village, get down to either the Pub or the Spar (Lucklaw hillers can also do this) and then take the road down to Guard bridge, from there you can get along to Leuchars station and into the village.
I have mapped this option.

16. Leuchars - Tayport
There are 2 main routes into Tentsmuir, the first is to follow the roads and tracks beside the airfield and to dodge along the trails in the sand dunes before landing at the main car park in tentsmuir.
The other is to pick up the Coastal path route, this takes you along board walks through marshes and drops you onto the main access road in Tentsmuir.
There really are many routes through tentsmuir, the most technical being to pick up the single track from the car park, this can be found by finding the small rise between car park and path, and cycling along the top and dropping into the dips, you will soon see worn paths converging until it's a proper looking bit of wild single track cut in the rise, follow this, before landing back on the path.
I honestly can't describe how to find the rest of the single track in tentsmuir beyond telling you to scan the side roads and rises in the trees for worn out tracks.

What ever route you take through tentsmuir it will take you to the Lundin Links bridge at the Food Mech in Tayport.

17. Tayport to Tay Road Bridge
From here you have a couple of route choices, if you are knackered I'd recommend taking the road along the waterfront, through the caravan park, along to the Harbour and then pick up the cyclepath to the tay bridge.
If you still have some energy left you can cut up into the village, pass Scott & Fyfe, the Co-op and Fire station and turn left at the mini-roundabout, join the main road through the village and then take a left at Wilison motors, and climb Craig road (the left left not the straight on left), this road leads up into Scotscraig estate, if the farmyard is working you'll need to take the left route down to the Washer Willy's road and then take the next right back into the estate (you could also use the Washer Willy's road to get straight into the top of Newport) throguh the farm yard take the straight ahead route which drops down again for a bit before curving to the right at a junction (if you did drop to the washer willy's road you rejoin at the junction) before a brief climb back up to a summit where you get a good view of Dundee, you then descend the Serpentine to the main road, cross this road to join the cycle path to Newport.

Follow the cyclepath towards newport, and turn up to the bridge, cycle through the car park, into the tunnel to the bridge walkway access and then turn left throguh ther metal railings on the path, follow this path up to craighead road in Newport

18. Tay Bridge to Wormit
Where the path joins craig head road there is a path directly across the road, join this rather than the road and at the small copse turn right and then left onto the single track, this drops rapidly to another road, pick this road up and out onto Station Brae, turn left and then right but not onto the road but the track behind the last row of houses, this takes you past garages and drops you at a good angle to attempt to climb the railway embankment which is steep and rooty.

Follow the embankment to cupar road, unfrotuantely the nature trail doesn't go through tayfield estate, so pick up cupar road and then Kirk road, on Kirk road lookout for a gap in the wall on the right, go through this gap down the first steps and then look for a bit of single track on the left, follow this and it drops you out by a more challenging route than following the path at Newport West Station.

At Newport West station the path along to Waterstone Crook is very clear but just look for the Green walking signs marked N.T. (Nature Trail) go through the crook car park, do a loop of the old railway bridge and then hit the railway line through to Wormit, cross the road and back up the embankment, and blast along until the path takes you down to Birkhill Avenue, turn left, throguh the railway bridge gap and then look for Scotscraig Crescent on the left, not only is this not a crescent it's also a challengingly steep hill, climb this and get onto Crosshill terrace, turning Right, turn left at the cross roads and look for the path behind the houses at the end of Reserviour road, go along this path to the top of Mount Stewart road and turn into the field, follow the track left from the enterance and up to the top of the field, turn right here and go along the top keep left at each junction you come to until you find a descent looking over towards the sand quarry, descend this hill and join the path down to Wormit Farm, here cross the road and descend either through the decomissioned farm (if clear) or by taking the road slightly to the left from the junction, go under the railway in the "tunnel" and turn directly left, hack through the fields and when you reach a small bridge over the railway turn right and follow the trail into Wormit Den, follow the small water course to where there is a stile over the fence, either cross the stile and turn right to return to Wormit Bay OR climb up the side of the hill and drop into the play park and see if you can get up the other side of the "ditch" (make sure the fence at the bottom hasn't been fixed first) in the paly park turn left down the steps and down the path to the car park.

You've certainly earnt your tea so why not try either "The View" in Wormit or the "Brig O' Tay" in Newport.

This route has got a mix of road, trail, tracks, woods and even some rock if you go up Lucklaw hill.
You could extend out to Newburgh from Glenduckie, you could find some more tracks from Dairsie to extend there, there may even be possiblities for getting into Cupar.

But the important thing with this route is not that I've detailed it, nor that it even exists, but that it shows with a little bit of map work, satellite imagery viewing and going out and exploring you can very easily find a cross country route of epic length to challenge you.

Ride With GPS link